Returning to normal

Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond, April 14, 2019. (Photo/Michael Mickle)

Guidelines for liturgies, sacraments updated


Print the worship aids, remove the blue tape from pews that designate socially distanced seating and pass the collection baskets. As of Friday, May 28, parishes, in accordance with the Governor of Virginia’s Executive Order 79, in particular their liturgical celebrations, were returning to the way they were pre- COVID-19.

At the beginning of a Wednesday, May 26, webinar for clergy, seminarians, parish staffs, campus ministers and Pastoral Center personnel regarding guidelines based upon that order, Bishop Barry C. Knestout thanked participants for the “outstanding way” they handled the adjustments necessitated by COVID-19 and spoke of full resumption of the work of the Church.

“Although the pandemic is not over, and we recognize that some concerns remain, yet it is now time to weave a course that is reasonable, but also allows better access to the sacraments and liturgies,” he said.

The bishop noted that the updated guidelines being provided by the diocese “allow a certain amount of discretion for implementation at the local level.”

Father Sean Prince, director of the diocese’s Office of Worship, spoke about matters related to liturgies. Among those:

Masks. Those fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask or supply proof that they’ve been vaccinated. Parishes should not ask to see or check a vaccination card. The unvaccinated should wear a mask.

Singing. Choirs and congregations may resume singing. Instrumentalists are welcome, but woodwinds and brass instruments included in a music ministry need to remain socially distant.

Communion. Priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist may distribute Communion. All should sanitize their hands prior to distribution. Until further notice, Communion from the cup is only available for the priest.

Hands off. Parishes are to continue refraining from the practice of shaking hands, e.g., the sign of peace, and holding hands, e.g., the Our Father, until further notice.

Community. There are no limits to gathering before or after Mass. There are no limits on accessibility to restrooms. Worship spaces do not need to be sanitized between Masses.

Father Prince also answered questions regarding celebration of the sacraments. All parishes have been provided with those guidelines.

The dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation remains in effect. More information on this matter will be released in the future.

Editor’s note: Further information is available on the diocesan website and by contacting the pastor of one’s parish.

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